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A debate is scheduled to be held on 12 July 2023 at 4:30pm in Westminster Hall on the pension retirement age for construction workers. The debate is sponsored by Owen Thompson MP (SNP).

Normal minimum pension age

The normal minimum pension age (NMPA) is the earliest age from which someone can normally draw their workplace or personal pension. Someone may be able to draw their pension earlier on ill-health grounds or if they have a ‘protected pension age’.

Since April 2010 the NMPA has been 55 years old. Before this the NMPA was 50 years old since it was introduced in 2006. It will increase to 57 in April 2028.

Background is available in the Library briefing Minimum pension age.

Protected pension age

There were two forms of protected pension age, depending on the type of scheme the individual was in on 5 April 2006:

  • Some people in certain professions with low retirement ages (such as sports people), who had a right before April 2006 to draw their pension before age 50, may have a protected pension age. This does not include construction workers.
  • Members of occupational pension schemes on 5 April 2006 may have a protected pension age if on 5 April 2006 they had a right to take benefits before age 55. The right must be unqualified, so that the individual does not need the consent of anybody before they draw their pension.

A member with a protected pension age of less than 50 who takes a pension before they reach the normal minimum pension age may have their lifetime allowance reduced. Members of certain public service schemes with a protected pension age (meeting the criteria above) may receive a pension without reduction to their lifetime allowance.

Exemptions from increase to 57

From 6 April 2028 the NMPA will increase to 57. At this point people may have a protected pension age of 55 or 56, or a protected pension age below 55.

Broadly, people who were members of a scheme with an unqualified right to take a pension from an age earlier than 57 will retain this right if they were a member of the scheme on 3 November 2021. People who had a protected pension age below 55 previously will continue to do so.

The increase to age 57 will not apply to members of public service schemes for the armed forces, police and firefighters.

Early access to State Pensions

The UK, unlike a lot of other comparable countries, has no provisions for early access to State Pensions under any circumstances. Proposals for early access were discussed in both the 2016-17 and 2021-23 State Pension age reviews. Background on these can be found in the Library’s briefing State Pension Age Review.

Many comparable countries, including Canada and the USA, have general provision for early access to pensions in exchange for a lower pension amount. More information comparing pensions across Europe can be found in the Mutual Information System on Social Protection (MISSOC) comparative tables, table VI (“Old-age”), and worldwide in the International Social Security Association’s country profiles.

In response to a June 2023 parliamentary question on the potential merits of lowering the State Pension age for construction workers, the Pensions Minister, Laura Trott MP, argued against reforming the current system:

The Government believes that the principle of having a State Pension age that is the same for everybody is fundamental in the UK. It has the merit of simplicity and clarity including giving a clear signal to those planning for retirement.

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